The 12 finalists for Oklahoma’s next Teacher of the Year were announced Monday in a ceremony at Yukon High School during EngageOK On the Road, the summer conference of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
Yukon High School’s Rob Davis was one of the 12 finalists announced on Monday.
“Classroom teachers are the heart and soul of education, and research tells us they are the most important person in the schoolhouse,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “Each of these 12 men and women represents the best of the best of those who have devoted their life to among the most noble and life-changing of professions.”
All finalists are teachers of the year for their districts and were selected after their application packets were reviewed by a panel that included educators, members of the business community, legislators and nonprofit partners.
The 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be revealed Sept. 19 in a ceremony at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.
The 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will remain in the classroom for the 2017-2018 school year. Beginning July 1 of next year, the honoree will assume full-time Teacher of the Year duties, which include speaking engagements and serving as Oklahoma’s teacher ambassador, encouraging others to enter or remain in the profession. The 2017 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Jon Hazell of Durant, will continue to tour the state until July of 2018.
Also among the 12 Teachers of the Year finalists was Chad Harper of Mustang High School. It is the second-straight year Mustang Public Schools has had a Teacher of the Year candidate.
The 10 other Teacher of the Year finalists are Jill Andrews of Claremore Public Schools, Neeli Boyd of Putnam City Schools, Sarah Carter of Drumright Public Schools, Betty Deen of Oologah-Talala Public Schools, Donna Gradel of Broken Arrow Public Schools, Janet Johnson of Sand Springs Schools, Dionne Liebl of Deer Creek Public Schools, Shala Marshall of Jenks Public Schools, Christine Mueller of Moore Public Schools and Laura Smith of Byng Public Schools.
Davis teaches Pre-AP Oklahoma History, Native American studies and coaches the academic team at Yukon High School. He said it means a lot to represent Yukon as a Teacher of the Year finalist.
“It’s humbling,” Davis said. “Not only do you get to represent all of the teachers here at Yukon but you get to represent Oklahoma. It’s a great time to represent our state and it’s exciting. Everything starts with the kids, their interests, their strengths and what we need to accomplish to make the experience successful. When the kids are relaxed, they are going to have the most success, so an individualized learning approach is important.”
Yukon Public Schools superintendent Jason Simeroth said Davis is a special teacher and Yukon is lucky to have him.
“Rob has worked really hard to get there and he deserves it,” Simeroth said. “When you think about how many teachers there are and how many school districts there are across the state, it is really impressive to be one of the 12 finalists. It’s awesome to have him announced in front of his home crowd at Yukon High School.”
Harper teachers engineering design at Mustang High School and is also a football and golf coach. He said he is blessed to have this opportunity.
“It’s quite an honor,” Harper said. “To represent Mustang and the state of Oklahoma and all of the people who work hard every day is a tremendous honor. I am no better than anyone else, I’ll tell you that. There are a lot of people who deserve to be here right now. There are a lot of great people I’m standing with right now and getting to know every one of them is quite an honor. It’s enormously humbling, love the opportunity. First thing I try do with the kids is connect with them, try to get a relationship going, so they are more comfortable. Then, we try to make it fun. My first rule in class is ‘Don’t make it boring.’ We make it interesting.”
Mustang Public Schools superintendent Sean McDaniel said he is extremely proud of Harper to have the opportunity to be one of the 12 finalists.
“We are thrilled and proud of Chad (Harper),” McDaniel said. “Chad is everything that is great about teaching. He loves his kids and he connects with them. He is a great representative of Mustang. He is a perfect example of ‘this is what you get’ with Mustang teachers.”
Yukon High School was EngageOK On the Road’s first of seven stops that will all take place in July. The second stop was Tulsa Union High School on Tuesday, the third stop was Enid High School today, the fourth stop is taking place at Weatherford High School Thursday, the fifth stop is taking place at Durant next Tuesday, the sixth stop is taking place at Ada High School July 19 and the seventh and final stop is taking place at Cache High School July 20.
Simeroth said Yukon is blessed to be able to be one of the few schools that gets to host an EngageOK On the Road event.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to come in and see our great facilities we have here,” Simeroth said. People get to see what our community has done for education and that is special.”